Pallas, The Cross and the Crucible (Inside Out) 2001 For those who don't know, Pallas were quite well-regarded neo-prog in the 80's, best known for their concept album The Sentinel. After another album, they took a 13-year hiatus and released Beat the Drum. The Cross and the Crucible was released two years later, and it sounds as full of life as any up-and-coming prog band. While I can't speak for their past work, having only a passing familiarity with it, I have to say that this album offers few hints in the way of Pallas' age. That said, The Cross and the Crucible is no great innovative leap forward in neo-prog concept albums (although I suppose by its very nature neo-prog shouldn't be to innovative). However, Pallas do a remarkably good job at providing the rocking guitar riffs, enchanting atmosphere, majestic themes, extended instrumental sections, and powerful conceptual unity that neo-proggers crave. The Cross and the Crucible is, of course, a concept album, with one of the better concepts I've heard - the long battle between science and religion (sorry, no Tolkien-esque fantasy imagery this time around - which is fine by me). The boys in Pallas seem to place their allegiance firmly in the science camp, so don't expect a balanced view (which might make and even more interesting concept album). Even so, I think the album will provide food for thought for either side of the debate. On to the music! As I said, the music is well-done but typical neo-prog. There are many sections of beautiful ambient keyboard and blistering guitar leads, but Pallas also have a pronounced hard rock influence that makes them seem a little heavier than, say, Marillion, and increases the band's dynamic range. In a few places, the band tints their music with Eastern influences and, in "For the Greater Glory" there's a pretty cool tribal breakdown. I'd point out track highlights, but really, all the tracks are quite memorable - even for someone like me who doesn't normally get excited about this kind of music. Bottom line: A very good neo-prog album. It charmed a guy like me who's usually unenthusiastic about such releases. ~Jon Murphree~
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